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House Committee: First Report

Volume 771: debated on Thursday 14 April 2016

Motion to Agree

Moved by

That the Report from the Committee Access and use of facilities by retired members (1st Report, HL Paper 115) be agreed to.

My Lords, this report recommends that access privileges may be withdrawn from a retired Member by the House Committee or a successor senior domestic committee. Colleagues will recall that the House has previously agreed that Members who lose their membership as a result of non-attendance or a sentence of imprisonment for more than a year should not have access privileges. Likewise, any Member who is expelled under the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015 will not have access privileges. Agreeing this report would mean that the House Committee could decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether a retired Member should have access privileges rescinded. I beg to move.

My Lords, the past week has shown how important transparency and dealing with any perception that there are different rules for different people in society are for rebuilding trust in public life. Earlier this year, your Lordships’ House discussed the fourth report of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. A key paragraph in that report stated that the strongest sanctions—expulsion, suspension and denial of access to House facilities or financial support—would be unavailable should someone who was being investigated continue to be investigated following their retirement from the House. The report before us today from the House Committee makes it clear that it is possible for retired Members to retain their parliamentary pass, to sit on the steps of the Throne and to use the Library and certain catering facilities and therefore to have access to facilities that could be withdrawn should an investigation be continued following a retirement.

I would like to ask the Chairman of Committees three questions. First, does he believe that it would be possible at some point in the future to revisit the previous decision, given that it will now be possible to have a sanction against retired Members? Secondly, will the House Committee minute discussions where it has been proposed that the access privileges be withdrawn but the House Committee decides not to withdraw those privileges? The report mentions at the moment only that there will be a minute of any decision to withdraw the privileges. Thirdly, will there be a public record of those who have retired from the House but who have had their privileges withdrawn?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell. Noble Lords will know that colleagues in this House who decide that they want to retire, whatever the circumstances, do not make a request: they simply give notice to the House. Therefore it is clear that no sanctions in future could be used in respect of them. It is therefore absolutely right that, for all who have the honour to serve in this House and are given access privileges when they retire from it, the House should have the powers, should they be needed, to withdraw those privileges; I hope they will not be needed very often, if ever. Certainly if a proposition of this kind in respect of an individual comes before the House Committee, it will be reflected in the minutes. The minutes of the committee are readily available and on the internet, so the deliberations and the outcome will be communicated more widely.

Motion agreed.